All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson

on September 26, 2018

Benjamin Stevenson
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 359p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Four years ago Eliza Dacey was brutally murdered.
Within hours, her killer was caught.
Wasn’t he?

So reads the opening titles of Jack Quick’s new true-crime documentary.

A skilled producer, Jack knows that the bigger the conspiracy, the higher the ratings. Curtis Wade, convicted of Eliza’s murder on circumstantial evidence and victim of a biased police force, is the perfect subject. Millions of viewers agree.

Just before the finale, Jack uncovers a minor detail that may prove Curtis guilty after all. Convinced it will ruin his show, Jack disposes of the evidence and delivers the finale unedited: proposing that Curtis is innocent.

But when Curtis is released, and a new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, Jack realises that he may have helped a guilty man out of jail. And, as the only one who knows the real evidence of the case, he is the only one who can send him back …

Crime doco-dramas are becoming so popular – Making A Murderer, The Staircase etc. TV is such a powerful way of telling a story and it’s an easy way to tell a part of a story. In this book, Jack Quick is a producer who made a television series surrounding the murder of grape picker Eliza Dacey and the arrest and conviction of Curtis Wade. Jack’s television series is so powerful, is edited together so well that it actually sets in motion the events that quash Curtis’ conviction, making him a free man. Jack is inundated with letters from prisoners all proclaiming their innocence, wanting to star in his next production and tell their story. But Jack can’t think about another series when this story isn’t over yet. Not long after Curtis is released from prison, another victim with ties to him is found murdered in a way that mirrors the first killing. Is it a copycat? Is someone trying to make sure that Curtis goes back to jail? Or has Jack’s television show set free a cold blooded killer to continue his work?

I found this really interesting – especially the role that the media plays in influencing public opinion and the power of that public opinion. There’s always more than one way to tell a story and Jack admits to himself more than once that the way he’s edited episodes of his show are to tell the ‘best’ story. And by that he means the most interesting or the most controversial or the one that makes the local cops look incompetent. Not the one that’s the most true with the evidence and information that he has. The murder occurs in wine country, up in the Hunter Valley where the locals aren’t really used to such crime. There were some procedural issues certainly and fingers pointed very quickly at Curtis Wade with perhaps only flimsy evidence. Curtis was a newcomer in this tight, rural community. He was ‘new money’, considered tacky and brash, the distinction often made between him and them in the town.

After the second murder, Jack goes back to the scene of the original crime, searching for answers. He finds himself not particularly welcome but he persists. The longer he stays, the more he uncovers and these seemingly innocuous things lead to more and more information about the original murder, which allows Jack to finally begin to put the pieces together. You can’t fault his dedication – Jack has some very guilty thoughts about his television show and what it has potentially done in terms of Curtis Wade. Guilt is something Jack does quite well and he’s had a lot of practice, it seems. He’s a very complex person with some deep seated issues, including one that I don’t often read about in fiction and definitely not in adult men. I don’t want to spoil it but it felt very well done and also very well explained, when the reason for why Jack was a victim to what he was, came out. His conversations with his brother were very powerful for many different reasons – he uses them to pick through his thoughts, to play devil’s advocate, to rebound ideas. It’s an important part of his process, for reasons that their father cannot quite seem to grasp but he facilitates it nonetheless. Jack has seemed like a supporting character in much of his life – a younger brother trailing behind, a victim of an illness he has to fight every single moment to gain control over. In his role as producer, he’s not the star…..but he’s definitely the one with the control, picking and choosing what gets edited together to tell a story. It’s not a role he wears well and even in his determination to get to the truth, he seems more sidekick than hero.

I think this book did a great job of keeping the reader guessing about a lot of things – was Curtis the original killer? Was he the killer of the second victim? If not, who did kill that person and why? Was he framed for the original murder? The narrative swerves in quite a few different directions over the course of the story and there were times when I changed my mind on what I thought the endgame would turn out to be only to backflip pages later. The suspense was nicely built and I think the ending was a bit of a masterpiece. A lot happened that I did not expect, which was good. And funnily enough, I think this would actually make a great TV series.


Book #164 of 2018

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